April 20, 2015 - No Comments!

30 Day Challenge – Half Way Point

30 Day Challenge Half Way

See All 30 Day Challenge Images on Instagram

So I’ve made it beyond the halfway point of my 30 day challenge but have not been shooting every single day. I was out everyday for the first 10 days but did not walk away with keeper images from each day. If undertaking a similar challenge yourself do not let this be discouraging. There is always value in getting out and going through the process of capturing images and practicing the craft. Also, whenever life always takes precedence over taking images so when opportunities to be with friends and family arise take them. I rode my bike a bunch in the past three weeks and was able to take some decent photos along the way with my phone. Even when using an iPhone go through the same photographic process of working a shot and great images can still be made.

I have been trying to do more street photography which is brand new to me. Street photography being focused around people as subjects as opposed to cityscapes, still life and landscapes. I have been a bit intimidated to get as close as I need to for a good shot. My confidence level is not there yet when dealing with strangers. I am easing into and just going out in popular and busy areas to get more comfortable shooting with people around me.

Some other take aways from my first few weeks of the challge:

  • It’s alright to not shoot everyday but having a project and goal helps increase consistency and makes shooting a higher priority.
  • Have a fast lens? Great. Don’t shoot on it wide open all the time.  Focus will be missed and often shallow DoF isn’t needed to separate subject and background.
  • Monopod? Great, but if going out and it is properly night-time just take the tripod. I tried to go out shooting at night on the street with the 40mm 2.8 with now about a full stop more at that focal length and my shots were still blurry from movement.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a phone as a camera. Nothing else or quicker to catch a moment go for it.
  • Analyze images from a shoot even if they aren’t worth publishing/sharing. Reflect on what would make the images better or what could be done differently to get the keeper next time around.
  • Slow down. Think about everything and take time to check things. Just spend a few more seconds on each photo.
  • Can’t make it out to shoot? Make an image in your home See what’s available to make a scene. See if there are light sources in your home that can be explored and manipulated. (going to do another post on this shortly)

This is now three weeks into a 30 day challenge and I’ve gotten 16 images out of it. I am a little behind due to days I didn’t take photos or days which didn’t produce any images of quality. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and I have been getting out consistently. Mission accomplished.  The next challenge specific post will be a follow up when I have yielded 30 images I deem acceptable! Keep shooting.

March 31, 2015 - No Comments!

6 Things I’ve Learned About Flickr

Flickr ConesIn the past two months I’ve put a lot more effort into shooting more regularly and sharing those images. I started by revitalizing my Flickr which is where the largest collection of my images lives. In these two months I have grown my following from about 100 followers to over 13 thousand using the technique in the first item below. With the increased exposure one of my more recent photos has made the explore page getting even more exposure. A popular challenge on flickr is the 365 project which inspired me to do a shorter 30 day challenge. So here are some of the important take aways I’ve learned from these past few months.

1. Build a following

It is very easy to follow a large number of people on Flickr via group members pages. To get started follow a bunch of people from a group that fits your style or taste.  The members list displays the newest members first so groups is a great place to find currently active members.  Lots of people follow back. start off by following a few hundred people and a good chunk will follow back. Interact with people as well. Continue to check back at these groups and continue the process to continue growing. Some people frown upon this practice but I get genuine interactions on my photos and acknowledge ever comment on all of my photos. This is completely alright in my book as long as your not an asshole and ignore people who are interacting with you and building a following is the key to getting your photos noticed. Keep in mind there are still different types of contacts to keep your growing contact list in order. There are the people you follow and then Friends and Family. I use these to delineate who people I added from groups are from people I actually know in real life.

2. Post One Photo at a Time

Post your best images and spread out posting images. I try to only post one photo per day which usually works well with my timing of editing photos. This allows you to focus on single images at a time and get them out quicker. Edit one photo at a time and complete it to it’s fullest and share it with the world instead of trying to get 10 images edit from a single day and share them all at once. Posting one at a time will also lead to more people interacting with it.  If you post a bunch of photos Flickr won’t always display at a full size especially in the phone/tablet apps. A single photo will always show the favorite and comment icons with photo. When  a group of photos appear users will have to click into a photo to then interact.

3. Always Add Titles, Metadata, Etc.

A title can change the way people look at a photo and provide extra context to help tell a story with your image. Great images do that on their own but a little help never hurts. Also, nothing looks less professional than having IMG_0042.jpg as your image title. Descriptions are nice too and provide room to expand on a nice concise title and allow you to talk about anything interesting during the capture of the image or even link out to your website for a blog post on it. Sharing technique is huge and I love sharing how I approached capturing an image and other photographers love reading that kind of stuff. Also there is not reason even to no include the metadata as far as camera settings go.  This will prevent questions from being raised about the technical details of a shot being raised and keep the conversation more on the conceptual level as settings are just settings.

4. Don’t Change the Photo Upload Date/Time

if you modify the date the photo was uploaded to get it higher up in your followers photostream it won’t be eligible for explore. Also done frequently it will annoy your following. If you have an old photo you want to feature consider just reuploading it. Do this with very old photos only. It’s just the decent thing to do.

5. Tread Carefully with Lightroom Exporting Directly to Flickr

I did a more in depth post about this here. In short, Lightroom might replace photos and make them private without your knowledge and you’ll lose favorites.

6. Get involved in groups

Circling back to groups again as this is where very active members of flickr will spend most of their time. Some groups do photo challenges and often provide good constructive feedback. So post your photos to groups but don’t in excess as that has been said to reduce your odds of being selected for the explore pool. Groups are the biggest takeaway here so get involved and interact with other member and start following a bunch.

March 28, 2015 - No Comments!

Tread Carefully with Lightroom to Flickr Exporting

LightroomI have been getting a big response to my photos on Flickr recently and with my 30 Day Challenge underway I’ve noticed a flaw in how Flickr/Lightroom don’t play to well together. My workflow is typically edit an image in Lightroom and publish it to Flickr via my photostream in Lightroom then post to instagram and then add titles, tags and description on flickr and publish to the public there.  So the issue I have ran into is that if Lightroom thinks any change has been made to a photo that is already on Flickr and public it will republish it and my settings are to publish as private to Flickr so I can then add titles and descriptions as I wish.  So when a photo gets republished and made private all the favorites on that photo are lost.  Losing those will prevent images that may have been on their way to making the explore page ineligible and in some cases I have had this happen even when I haven’t made any modifications to a photo. Super frustrating.

The quick solve to this problem is setting the privacy of the photos on publish to be public. I personally don’t feel comfortable doing that as I upload multiple versions/crops to Flickr for Instagram. Also the title and description can be set in the metadata of the file in Lightroom but sometimes that will change based on the audience. If that information is then changed on flickr that might pull Flickr and Lightroom out of sync and cause an unnecessary re-upload. The sure-fire way of avoiding this is to just export photos to disk and then upload those to Flickr separately. Then edit titles, descriptions, etc. on Flickr and per your audience based on the network your uploading it to (Flickr, 500px, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). So that is how I am going to proceed to prevent this from happening in the future. I though initially it was a hickup because one of my files didn’t save but that same file republished again when trying to publish just one new photo again even after no changes on the Lightroom side of the fence.

March 26, 2015 - No Comments!

30 Day Challenge Begins

30 Day Challenge Day 1With the warm weather upon us… Wait. No, it’s still absolutely freezing in NYC. Anyway with more daylight at least in the evenings I have decided to begin 30 days of shooting daily. I am doing this not to take away images but to get into the mindset of going out and shooting more frequently and to practice the craft both technically and creatively. Working scene by scene one shot at a time paying attention to composition and light.

Each day I am going to post an image from the prior day regardless of whether or not I would share it normally. This will make me focus more on working shots to get better results. My fear is that on some days I won’t take the time to produce a good image which defeats the whole purpose of this exercise. The primary focus for a challenge like this is for personal growth not to come away with stunning images every day. So a huge part of this process is the reflection and review of images and self critiquing what could make images stronger.

March 16, 2015 - No Comments!

Vermont Stars

flickr-stars-squareI took my first stab at shooting stars while spending a weekend in Vermont to do some snowboarding. We arrived in a town just outside of Killington on a crisp and very cold night. Ideal conditions and a clear sky for some star shots. For my first attempt I would have preferred it be a little warmer then the -12 degrees fahrenheit. Besides that there are a few things I learned from the experience.

When an opportunity to try a new photographic experience presents itself take it! In my case where I live in NYC it is impossible to get clear shots of the stars because of all of the light pollution. So even though it was in the negatives the crystal clear sky could not be passed up.

The second takeaway is that at night the viewfinder isn’t going to do anything.  To compose a shot will require taking shots and recomposing based on what is seen on the screen. I cranked up my ISO when taking these shots to reduce the shutter speed for the test shots so I could quickly recompose and get on with the shoot.

Third, bring a flashlight/headlamp and a shutter release. The buttons on your camera will be very hard to see and they were very difficult to press in the cold. Also for time savings you can cut two seconds if using self-timer to prevent camera shake. That 2 seconds can seem very long in the cold. One more camera related thing in the cold is that battery performance will be robbed significantly so bring spares.

I wasn’t expecting to come away with any images my first time out but I was delightfully wrong in that assumption.  Just get out there and see how it goes!

January 23, 2015 - No Comments!

Pingdom Free Monitoring

This is just a super quick note that you can add a very basic level of monitoring for you website through a free pingdom account. This basically can track two things.  Server response whether your server is running and returning content and Real User Monitoring (RUM) which will alert you if page load times start to slow down.

As posted before, I am on a Digital Ocean Ubuntu Linux stack which is an unmanaged hosting solution. So this is a simple gut check to make sure my site is up and running. Pingdom will shoot an email off if my site is down so I can now sooner rather than later that the box needs kicking (a power cycle usually does it). Before I would only get a notification again via email from Google Analytics saying that my site was inaccessible but this would be a full day after my site has been down. Pingdom will do checks at a rate of one’s choosing and by default runs checks every five minutes.

January 19, 2015 - No Comments!

New Year, Fresh Start

Videos & Blogs

I have many things I would like to accomplish and am hitting the ground running. The main thing is content production which covers a vast array of things.  I would like to be blogging, vlogging and photographing regularly.  Blog posts once or twice a week and a video once a week with photos coming through all of the time. The videos are by far the most difficult and time consuming but I am getting quicker with more experience and practice. As I am becoming more familiar with the editing software I am putting more thought into my edits. A lot of this means thinking out my shoots ahead of time so I have the footage I need for continuity and diversity in to combine.

As far as  the videos I’ve made so far they are a bit longer coming in at 5-6 minutes but I would like to condense each video to be more easily consumable from start to finish at around 3 mins in length.  I would also like to do less speaking in my videos and let the visuals, music and editing tell my stories. Future videos will consist of vlogs, more formal projects such as photography tutorials, mini-documentaries and music videos. I am particularly interested in creating some videos for music producers as I really enjoy discover new music for my videos. If any music producers are interested let me know!

Photography

I have a few things for photography I have in mind to do in upcoming months. First off is to make some education videos to cover some of the basics of photography to get people started with more advanced shooting on their DSLRs. There are many other quick tips experiments I wish try out as well photography wise. I plan on doing at least a 30 day challenge in warmer months due to more available light. So the premise of that is I will shoot everyday for 30 days. I have yet to decide if there will be a recurring theme for the duration or if each day will be something different. I plan to accompany my progress with videos as well. Another idea that comes to mind is a challenge to shoot fully manually without reviewing photos as I shoot.

Health & Activity

I also plan of living a more active life in 2015. Too much time is spent behind computer screens and sitting at desks day and night.  On top of that, I am being much more conscientious of what I am eating. I kicked off the new year with a bout of food poisoning which was not a very good start but also made me reflect a bit on what I am eating. I plan on eating far less meat and moving towards many more fruits and vegetables. Fruits of which, were completely absent from my diet before. Also, I am not a coffee drinker but like all developers I need to get my caffeine fix from somewhere and turn to soda. I plan to completely cut soda out of my life which I have done in the past (lasted about a month).  Replacing soda with water and having no caffeine in my diet I am hoping will also lead to a better sleep pattern.

With the weather being all over the place and conditions being far less than desirable for cycling in changing what I eat is the first change I wish to make. What we consume directly impacts our quality of energy and overall emotional state. It’s not about how one feels while eating but how one feels after the food is produced into energy. With better fuel for more energy I need to start actually burning through exercise. With a better sleep pattern there is no better way to start a day then with some exercise to get the endorphins going!

Overall, I think 2015 has a lot of new, exciting and fun times to be had. Life is what one makes of it so make it count!

October 16, 2014 - No Comments!

Weekly Vlogs

In an effort to make sure I explore the city more often I have set a goal to video blog (vlog) weekly about places I go to photograph and anything similarly related. I also haven’t done any heavy video editing in my past so this a new and fun challenge for me.  So to start off the vlog I had the opportunity to explore the TWA Flight Center and the Brooklyn Army Terminal.  I was able to go to the places for free due an annual event called Open House New York. This is a great event which offers public access in addition to guided tours with some of the architects for great buildings.  For the full list of buildings, locations and programs that were available this year check out there website which has about 150 different programs listed.

My cousin Eric came with me to photograph these two awesome spots. If you want to see more vlogs please subscribe to my channel. So here it is my first take at vlogging.  If anyone has music they would like me to feature in future videos please email me at: stephen@stephentvedt.com

October 08, 2014 - No Comments!

LIC Waterfront Night Shooting

lic-night

Yesterday evening between 8:15 and 9:15 I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed down to the LIC waterfront to take a first stab at some serious night shooting. I was a bit gung-ho and wanted to get the Manhattan shots right away. However, I arranged my photos to introduce the area in which I was shooting first. This is my attempt at a more journalistic approach to ease my way to the Manhattan shots. I had some very particular style of images I wanted to come home with though. Allow me to elaborate.

So, I have been browsing 500px.com quite frequently and some of my absolute favorite shots have been daytime neutral density filter shots. These are the photos that have daytime lighting but super long exposure times because of the filters blocking out so much light.  People use these filters to slow down the shutter speed to typically get a softening effect of flowing water.  The common shots are of streams and waterfalls in the woods. This is all great but neutral density filters are by no means cheap for one of decent quality. With limited light at night this opens up the possibility for such effects to be possible.

Being new to this I took a ton of exposures.  I reiterate a ridiculous amount of exposures. I set up my camera to bracket my exposure compensation by a full stop over and under.  Then I would use my usual exposure compensation control to move the entire bracket up and down. I was able to come away with easily 9 exposures to a single composition.  This took some time but I’m glad I took this approach because there were a lot of variables in the environment such as water, buildings, lights, foreground and clouds. The keepers I ended up with were from various brackets within maybe 3 stops of each other.

I pretty much shoot exclusively in priority modes between aperture and shutter priority. So for such a huge depth and distance covered in my shots I decided to go with aperture priority. This started off at f9 but I ended up changing my ISO and closing down the aperture to f22 to get a longer exposure.  I might as well have been in full manual. The only real difference is that I would have had to metered to get and center meter to then bracket from.

The outcome of the images is more than satisfactory. The only thing I noticed is when zooming in all the way to the buildings there is some grain. This is noticeable on shots even on my lowest ISO at 100 so it may be the glass of the 18-55mm kit lens I was using. I also recorded some notes of how I was bracketing and exposing in general on my GoPro. I might start doing this more frequently to create some vlogs to accompany my write ups on this blog.